WHAT IS PILATES?
All Pilates movements are based on 6 core principles: Control, concentration, precision, breath, centring and flow. When combined, these create the full body conditioning workout that makes Pilates so effective for strengthening and toning the body and focusing the mind. At nearly 100 years old, it has certainly stood the test of time - and is used for a multitude of purposes including treating back pain, injury rehabilitation, improvement of joint health for arthritis patients and posture correction amongst many other things.
Originally named 'Contrology' by its inventor Joseph Pilates, this method of body conditioning is difficult to define in a single
phrase alone because as the 6 principles suggest...it embodies so much.
What may be easier is to explain is what makes Pilates different from other exercise regimes. Pilates is all about the detail, so low repetitions of movement are used to perform each exercise with absolute precision and control. To do this requires dedicated mental focus....which is why Pilates is so frequently described as an integration of body and mind.
Pilates wanted his exercises to be an 'antidote to modern life' - aiming to correct the effect of repetitive bad habits on the body. This influenced his focus on improving poor posture, and strengthening the core to stabilise and mobilise the spine. Today this is more important that ever as we spend our lives sitting or standing at work, carrying loads, or wearing high heels - all of which affect our physiology.
Concentrating on the execution of movement enables integration of body and mind which in turn leads to greater precision and control.
Joseph Pilates was born in Germany in 1880 and was a sickly child suffering from various health defects that jeopardised his life expectancy. He used this as a motivation to strive to reach peak fitness, and began using sports to obtain a lean and muscular physique.
Having moved to England during the First World War, it was during his time working in an infirmary that he began developing resistance exercises using hospital bed springs and straps to help rehabilitate his patients and improve their muscular strength and ability.
In 1926 he moved back to the US and set up a studio in New York where he worked with dancers from the New York School of Ballet to help improve their body conditioning and endurance. His core beliefs were that factors like lifestyle, posture and breathing were impairments to physical health (a concept that he rightly saw to be ahead of it's time.)
In 1945 Pilates wrote his book 'Return to Life Through Contrology' - the only evidence he personally provided of his techniques. He did not patent his programme, allowing it to be shared with others as it is today.
Pilates had a number of apprentices who have gone on to interpret, teach and apply the Pilates method in schools worldwide. The programme was introduced in the UK in 1970 by his apprentice Alan Herdman who to this day still lectures and publishes on the subject. As you would expect, since its inception, the method has adapted and evolved somewhat to meet the demands of modern life and reflect scientific advances in sports and exercise.